Kansas? Not even close
Funky preshow music is playing: “Brick House.” “Shining Star.” “Super-freak.”
We’re so not in Kansas anymore.
“The Wiz” is, in part, a straight-forward retelling of Dorothy’s story as she trips down the Yellow Brick Road to Oz. But it’s also a glorious soul train ride into 1970s music and sensibility, with gritty reality riding right alongside with the fantasy and fun.
Like the more-familiar “Wizard of Oz,” the play starts in Kansas, where Dorothy (Cassandra Pangelinan) is blown off course by a storm (portrayed here by a chorus of dancers — a great touch). She thumps down in Munchkinland, squashing a witch, and heads off in search of the Wiz (Stacey Jarvis and an incredible puppet you’ll just have to see for yourself). She learns a few lessons and makes some new friends along the way.
Those friends steal the show. Cesar Anguiano is just perfect as the Scarecrow, all loose-limbed and happy-go-lucky. Nick Quinteros shines as the Tinman, who wears a costume covered with recycled cans and kitchen implements. And Lee Hinton, who obviously relishes the role, is both sympathetic and hilarious as the Lion.
Youngsters and adults alike will love the bright colors and the comedy, especially the tough-talking Lion, whom they immediately recognize as a scaredy cat. They’ll find the wicked witch, Evilene (Antonia Osterhout), deliciously scary, and enjoy seeing and hearing her nicer sisters Addaperle (Leticia Duran) and Glinda (Kelly Ashton, who also plays Aunt Em). And they’ll want to hang out with the Scarecrow and the Tinman.
In fact, there are many things to love about this production, directed by Mark and Robin Pederson — the fantastical costumes; the lighting and colors used to set the scenes; the whimsical background painting; the clever and accommodating Yellow Brick Road.
“The Wiz” includes some lovely tunes, such as Glinda’s “A Rested Body is a Rested Mind,” and some catchy ones, like the recurring “Ease On Down the Road.” And the enthusiastic group numbers sound beautiful.
But the script shortchanges the story in a few places. Although it adds some clever contemporary references — mentioning urban renewal and having the “Mice Squad” haul away a “poppy” user, for instance — it skimps on Dorothy’s homecoming. Worse, it skips the set-up for the her actions at Evalene’s castle, giving her no good reason to dash the wicked witch with water.